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What is a Fingertip Amputation?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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A fingertip amputation is usually the result of an injury that was severe enough to sever the tip of the finger. In some cases, a fingertip might be amputated in a doctor's office because of an injury or some other condition, such as a bone infection, gangrene, or frostbite. Sometimes an injury that resulted in fingertip amputation can be corrected if the severed tip of the finger is brought to the doctor's office shortly after the injury occurs. Even though fingertips can occasionally be surgically reattached, there is a good chance that a person will have more decreased function and feeling in the finger than he did before.

Injuries that are traumatic enough to sever a fingertip typically include things like slamming doors, accidents involving lawn equipment, and knife use. An accident involving fingertip amputation requires immediate medical attention, and the severed fingertip should be found and brought along to the emergency room if possible. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a good idea to put the severed tip of the finger directly on ice, because this could result in more damage to the fingertip. It is typically acceptable to put the fingertip inside of a watertight bag, however, at which point the bag can be placed on ice.

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When a person goes to the emergency room with a fingertip amputation, a doctor will probably examine the extent of the injury and ask questions about how it happened before deciding whether it is possible to reattach the fingertip. An anesthetic will probably be injected into the finger to stop pain, and X-rays might be taken to check for damage to finger bones. Reattaching a fingertip tends to be a very long, involved surgical procedure, and if only a small part of the fingertip was cut off, a doctor may elect to simply sew the skin together and let it heal over time. Surgical reattachment tends to be much more successful in young children than it is in adults.

Fingertip amputation is occasionally necessary when a person has a problem such as frostbite, gangrene, or some type of bone infection. In cases such as these, it is normally not possible to reattach the fingertip. A person who has an amputated fingertip may experience problems such as pain and temporary loss of sensation off and on for up to a year. In some cases, these problems last indefinitely. Physical therapy might be helpful for a person who lost his fingertip, but it may not be needed if the amputation wasn't incredibly severe.

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